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Burn ~ Part 2 (cont. from last week’s part 1): Refusal

by Nancy Grayum

I see withholding as a practice, a way of living lightly, spending small, taking time to think and feel, pacing ourselves. Progressive refusal, increasingly tweaking our resistance to the culture of waste and greed, can create meaningful outcomes.

Divestment from funds that support environmental or social abuse is easy to accomplish, but it can be difficult for people to let go of potential financial gain.  If investing in mutual funds, then we select “socially responsible” and read the fine print.

No banks or investment corporations use my money now. I’ve used only our local credit union, not the for-profit banks, for 50 years. A credit union is a cooperative non-profit, with an elected board that exists to benefit local community members. Bank-initiated legislation constantly threatens the non-profit status of credit unions. Even with strong resistance from members, the banks creep in: WECU sold our mortgage. Their Visa is actually Citibank. I pay the charges quite immediately so Citibank gets zero interest, but the usurers get a take from my vendors, who in turn charge me.

It’s this type of close examination of my own assumptions and habits that leads me to seek and share more ways to resist dependence on an abusive system.

I won’t vote for a candidate who accepts corporate contributions. Thousands of alliances have formed since Senator Bernie Sanders set the example and proved the power of common people during his presidential campaign. As these groups coalesce I will support them in the interest of social justice, education and a compassionate society.

Since the 1970’s everyone in our family has attended to efforts to decrease personal use of fossil fuels. These days I walk and use public transit to schools, markets, libraries and offices, but we also use a gas-powered car.

We support local farms and economies by purchasing locally-sourced fresh food. We avoid buying things that had to be transported by ship, plane, or trucks. But we can’t grow lemons or avocados here; there is still privilege in our purchasing habits.

We recycle and re-use. We also agonize over the omnipresent plastic that is woven through our personal culture like the DNA of living organisms. We could do better.

I resist by protecting my mind. I refuse to watch or listen to propaganda aka advertising aka network programming, so I don’t feed the gaping maw of corporate athletic, retail, political, or pharmaceutical America. There’s been no TV at home since I dialed up the internet in the 20th Century, but still the headlines from around the world swim in our ether whether we want to know about them or not. I’ve always been disinterested in “the news” in a rather snooty way, and continue my lifelong quest for meaningful journalism, verified sources with integrity, and without snarly hi-amp attitude. I wi-fi-couch surf national and international headlines but find other ways to read those topics in depth for free. Breitbart is free. (Opposition research.)

Oh yes, Yes!  magazine makes my list, along with other ad-free print and online sources of news and people in our multiple cultures that interest and inspire me: The Sun, Orion, Crosscut and Northwest Citizen, ACLU, Sierra Club, Northwest Treaty Tribes, Jay Taber’s Salish Sea Maritime blog and Jen Briney’s Congressional Dish podcast. Then I try to budget my stress hormones and let my thoughts compost sans odeur.

While I aim to stay healthy and fully available to family and friends, I now take the time to write postcards to our members of Congress every week–one topic per missive. I sign petitions, forward the urgent emails, then unsubscribe from the flood of solicitous promotions that result from my clicks. I make protest signs, and after years away, show up at protests. I pray that all people and all creatures may experience kindness and compassion.

Quiet time, retreat, solitude are like the exhale after a frightened gasp. Post-traumatic stress after November 2016 made me sick for three months. I seek renewal. Wendell Berry, in the last line of his poem The Peace of Wild Things, says it for me:

For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

We were burned this past winter and the flames are intensifying. But we are still breathing. The deliciously saturated clouds are still floating above, the rhodies are blooming at our front door, and we didn’t use the gas fireplace today. We can’t change our cultural entrapment with the flick of a switch, but we can keep the wicked wizards’ feet to the fire while we continue our own slow burn.

Author’s Bio: Nancy Grayum grew up in the rain-blessed forests and on the salty shores of Washington State, usually seeking the right path, or some divergence. She taught in public schools during the 1970’s, did a stint as a self-employed copy editor, then had a long career in classroom technology support at WWU. As a recovering technical writer she enjoys writing poetry and creative non-fiction, and is a volunteer with Whatcom Land Trust. She lives in Bellingham with her husband Gene Riddell  and their dog, Mr. Black.

Law of Attraction

by Shelley Meredith

What you resist, persists – Carl Jung

After hearing about the nationwide Writers Resist movement, I was angered….and a bit shocked. I couldn’t believe that an entire body of people – especially those who know the power of words – would willingly participate in such a destructive movement. Here’s why:

As you push against the unwanted, you add power to it. There are all kinds of wars going on right now – war on cancer, war on poverty, war on drugs, and the list goes on and on yet where are we with eradicating these issues as a society? How much progress have we made with the enormous resources devoted to these issues or have they grown worse? In just the last month, I found out about six people I know who either were just diagnosed or died from cancer. That’s an amazing and horrifying example from just one person but I’m sure there are more who have had similar experiences. So as I ponder on what can be done to end suffering of all kinds for people everywhere and this concept of “resistance” is offered up, I have to return to The Law of Attraction. I have to make a point if not offer up a reminder to those who are already aware of this very powerful resource but inform those who may not know.

More and more I am less tolerant of surrounding myself with people who are focused on anger, aggression, negativity, and intolerance regardless if these emotions are ignited by an injustice or aimed towards a noble cause. Why? Because ultimately that is where the progress begins and ends. In my opinion, what people are unknowingly doing is feeding the all too fertile ground for these issues to continue, issues such as racism, bigotry, violence, poverty, hatred etc. In essence, the issue has supporters on both sides because “what you resist, persists” and of course, there are many who actively participate in those things that denigrate society such as human trafficking. That needs to end. Yes, use your emotion but in a positive way. What do you want to see in the world? Peace? Health? Fairness and equality? Compassion? And how does one bring that into fruition verses being unknowingly a supporter of the very thing one fights against? Well, the answer will be different for each and every one of us on many different scales from nationwide movements to our interactions with others on a day to day basis. The solutions though will start to appear as soon as you connect to what it is you DO want, not what it is you DON’T want. Make no mistake about it. Changing your thinking is a hard and trusting that the Law of Attraction really works, may be even harder. We are Americans, after all. We are born to fight, to be the strongest power in the world.

If these concepts are foreign to you or seem like cheap, pop psychology, then I’d suggest watching “The Secret”, “What the Bleep Do We Know?”, reading anything from the many gurus of this scientifically-proven philosophy such as Wayne Dyer or Ester Hicks (you can also find many videos on YouTube from both authors), or Pam Gout, author of “E-Squared”. Gout has some quick and dirty practice exercises you can do on your own that will prove to you once and for all this is real. It isn’t pop psychology or magical thinking. If you’re ambitious, study physics, the layman’s kind. You’ll find in such wonderful reads as Michael Talbot’s “The Holographic Universe” and “The Field” by Lynne McTaggart.

I was lucky enough to learn about The Law of Attraction back in 1990. It would take me volumes of books to share with you how this amazing concept has worked miracles in my life. I mean real miracles! And, I am not alone. Far from it. So I beg anyone who reads this to start taking the right kind of action today and share this with those you may know who are passionately interested in making the world a better place, either as a person or through an organization in which they are already involved. As Americans in particular we are so programmed to “fight”. Isn’t it time we re-program ourselves to be the powerful beings of change we want to be by using a different yet far more effective approach? It’s about what you are for, not what you are against.

Author’s Bio: Shelley Meredith moved to Bellingham in 2015. She writes poetry, short stories, personal essays, and is currently working on two novels. She has also contributed to several other blogs. In her free time she can be found on the trails, doing yoga or pilates, reading, or volunteering at the Bellingham Library. You can reach her at www.thewritinglife@yahoo.com

Love Army–One Soldier at a Time

She comes into my office. Slight build, long brown hair, brown eyes. Sanja (not her real name) is about forty years old. A second generation Indian (as in from India). She married a man she met in college and has two children, six and nine. This is our intake session and all I know before she comes in is that she’s feeling depressed and doesn’t know why.

As we talk, I find out that she has a job working fifty hours a week at a tech company and that she volunteers for her daughter’s Girl Scout troupe. At lunch, she dashes to the gym for thirty minutes on the treadmill, and on the weekends she works on a project for #LoveArmy and their Green for All initiative.

I listen for the better part of a half hour with part admiration for how completely Sanja lives into her personal value system and part guilt that only this year did I realize that single-use plastics like straws and picnic cutlery were a major hazard to our environment. Sanja’s household is almost at zero waste. She plays a game with her children to keep plastic out of the house. “Plastic out of the house is money out of the hands of polluters,” she says. “Then she says, “I’ve been working on this stuff for two years, but since the election I feel completely defeated.” And she starts to cry.

I sit across from her in my small therapy room. The sun is coming in the window at an angle so it hits me right in the eyes, but I resist getting up to fix the blinds. I want to hold space for her pain. Which is also my pain.

She goes on to describe her fears and how she feels like giving up on saving the planet, but how when she looks at her children she knows she has to keep moving forward even when she doesn’t feel hopeful, I start to well up too. A tear escapes, and I blot it away with the knuckle of my forefinger.

Sanja isn’t the first terrified client crying in my office over the election. Since my job is to hold space for clients, to let them sort through the triggers and pain in their lives by offering them supportive reflections and questions, I try to never let my own political cat out of the bag. But I find it so hard nowadays. I find it hard sitting with Sanja, someone who has lived her life for years in a state of conscious intention, believing she could make a difference.

“It’s no small thing to feel hope slip away, is it?” I reflect. “I’m sure that’s contributing to your depression.”

“No, this whole thing isn’t small at all. I know you can’t do anything about the big picture,” she stares out the window for a moment. “I guess I’m hoping someone can help me hang on to my faith.”

I nod. I don’t have any confidence at all that I can help her with that. My work since the election has been difficult. Not since 9-11 have I had so many clients in my office talking about world events as their major stressors. “I’ll try,” I say. “At least I can help you learn a new relationship with fear and frustration. Maybe if they don’t feel as unmanageable and overwhelming, you can see your faith through the fog.” Even as I say it, I can only hope it’s true.

We make another appointment, and I walk her back to the waiting room to say goodbye. “I feel a little lighter,” she says as she walks out the door. “Thank you.”

“It’s my privilege,” I say. And I mean it.

I go back into my office and adjust the blinds I resisted adjusting before. I think about how I should recycle more. I should march more. I should call my elected officials more.

I have a half hour before my next client. I heat up my lunch and pull out my new bamboo utensils to eat it with. I pop open my computer and Google Love Army.

“We need all hands on deck fighting for the future.” –Van Jones, founder of #LoveArmy

 

Cami Ostman is co-founder of the Red Wheelbarrow Writers and Director of Memory into Memoir, a program that gives writers everything they need to get their books done. She is author of Second Wind: One Woman’s Midlife Quest to Run Seven Marathons on Seven Continents and Co-editor of Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions. You can find her at camiostman.net.

Pick Up That Tire Iron and Get This Rig Back On the Road

by Scott Swanson

From the introduction to Matt Taibbi’s Insane Clown President: “Yes, D_____ T_____’s* campaign was massively fueled by racism and xenophobia. But racism and hatred and fear of foreigners were not irreconcilable with hatred of the arrogant establishment that controlled major-party politics. Many voters out there hated both, and some hated the latter with the heat of a thousand suns.”

I guess you all saw the man with the T____* flag at the Bellingham Women’s March. Who was that guy? One of those “stupid redneck” types that Bill Maher likes to defame, a low-information, uneducated voter as defined by pundits and pollsters?

Again from Taibbi, in describing these people: “They can’t stand the book-smart college types who making cushy livings pushing words around… in professions that reward people who in real life need to call AAA to change a tire.”

Matt is quick to acknowledge his own surprise when Republicans swept the board, placing himself among what he calls “America’s population of Otherwise Smart People” who were stunned by the Democrat’s loss. He lays the blame on unwitting collusion between party hacks and the media, their absorption with polls and TV ratings that bolstered their bottom lines. But the Talking Heads aren’t the only reason the T____* campaign succeeded. Years of resentment and pent-up frustration propelled the desire for change, blue collar workers fed up with the bullshit that T____* called “political correctness”, enough to ignore the rhetoric of hatred they saw as just more of the same.

How they could do that, I do not know, but it serves to illustrate the depth of investment they shouldered in rolling the dice, if indeed they were betting on T____* at all, and not against Hillary Clinton. I didn’t vote for the Clintons myself, though I’m sure for different reasons. Did the flag waver know of the welfare reforms that threw millions of children into poverty? Or the Crime Bill that incarcerated thousands of black men, giving rise to for-profit prisons? Probably not, but he wouldn’t have had to; he might have just looked at his paycheck. Through Reagan, Clinton, the Bushes and Obama, wages have flat-lined and factories closed while wealth inequality soared. Since 1975, in fact, as the costs of living grew.

Not every T____* voter waves a flag or beats up people at rallies. Many had voted for Obama in the past, and might well have voted for Bernie. So they’re not all that different from you and me; at least me, whose collar is blue. I’ve sat with them in crew buses and crowded lunch trailers from the foothills clearcuts to Cherry Point. I’ve worked with them, laughed with them, and shared their smokes as well as their disillusionment. I too petitioned with my boots in the day, ducked not a few billy clubs. But I’ve traded my sandals for Redwings and corks and I’ve walked several miles in those shoes, and I’ve changed a few tires over the years, though I still like to push words around. So I’m all for marching and raising my voice, but I’m leery of what I might say.

Few can imagine the scale of betrayal that some T____* supporters must feel: the collusion with Russia, the corporate coup, the Wizard revealed as a conman. What will happen if The Donald goes down? Will the anger just go away? I doubt it. If anything it will just grow stronger as more flags are waved in frustration. If you’re still on the fence in this culture war – or Wall, if you prefer – then get off it, mingle, and open your mind as to why many drank the Orange Koolaid. We Otherwise Smart People would do well to heed the heat of a thousand suns. So pick up a tire iron once in a while, and get this rig back on the road.

*One of the rules of our Resistance Writing blog is that He Who Shall Not be Named, shall not be named, so his name has been redacted and replace with underlines (the editor)

Author’s Bio

Scott Swanson is a building contractor who has lived in Glacier for 45 years. He’s worked in logging, the oil industry, and commercial construction in the Carpenter’s Union. He recently self published a story on Kindle Ebooks named “Philly’s Bridge”, which oddly enough has to do with “resistance”. Another title, “Whose Woods These Are”, is currently in the works. Many thanks to Andrea Gabriel and Kari Neumeyer for their help in that endeavor.

Determination

by Diana Dodd

I have a photograph of a small bird that has in the grasp of its claws two separate pieces of pond grass. One leg is extended to the right and the other to the left, and then it is leaning forward to get a sip of water. That is what I call determination.

Determination does not come easily. It requires careful thought and a willingness to do whatever is necessary to reach a goal. In the realm of resistance, determination is key, because there will be times when the resistance succeeds and times when it fails. How many times did the bird attempt his trial of derring do before he achieved the fine balance that brought him success. It is easy, as time goes by and more and more happens in our country, to lose sight of the fierce resolve we might have felt on election night.

In order for the bird to balance on the moment the picture was snapped were all the times that the grass gave way or he misjudged the distance to the goal of the water and he shook his head to clear it off, and try another route. There are many ways to resist. We can support candidates both local and state when the option arises or even consider trying to serve in public office ourselves. We can write to our legislators both state and federal to protect the things we hold dear. We can promote organizations that assist those whose rights are in jeopardy. And on top of this, we must vote.

This first 100 days of the president’s term have been like a constant barrage and as confusing as being in the throes of battle. It can be hard to see what is happening when so much mud is thrown in the water. We must remain vigilant and informed. If a small bird can find the balance in his life, we can find the balance in ours and the determination to stay in the resistance.